So here we are, the end of the Lanie-pregnant saga, but you know in the Crumbsian universe I don't finish a story without another one on deck. In the spirit of Hallowe'en and babies, I've decided to go back in time to the scene/site of the first chapter in Better Together - Castle's Hallowe'en party where Ryan and Honey-Milk go 'trick or treating' and get a more than they bargained for! As always, thank you for your reading and support, and enjoy Carey's welcome home!
As Harvey had said, Lanie and Carey were discharged the following day from the hospital promptly at ten am; because he was Dave, he'd found a wheelchair in which to take Lanie and Carey downstairs to meet Meredeth with her car.
'I still don't understand why you insisted I have a chariot for the trip downstairs,' Lanie asked him, watching the way Carey's little nostrils flared as he napped. So precious how he did things just like his daddy already.
'See how you can't take your eyes off of him? That's why. I don't want you walking into any walls and smushing him,' he teased her.
They made it to the lobby, out to the 'loading docks' as the paramedics called them, to see Meredeth's snappy red Nissan waiting like Cinderella's pumpkin-coach. The lady herself, however, was over chatting up a group of paramedics which had Lanie shaking her head. They'd all though Meredeth slightly shy when they'd first met her; that it seemed, had been her nerves, as they knew now she'd talk to anything that talked back.
Dave recognized Jayla amongst the crowd, and when she caught his eye, she bounded over, three wrapped parcels in her hand.
'Congrats, Dave!' she said, giving him a quick hug, then Lanie and cooing over the new arrival. 'Look at him, so sweet!'
'Kevin Oscar Parrish-Robbins,' Dave said, pride radiating from every pore. 'He's already gained two ounces since he was born.'
'Big boy. Was it a natural birth? Like, I mean push-push, not a slice-and-dice.'
'Oh yes,' Lanie laughed. 'Very much so.'
'Good on ya, girlfriend. Here. We got something for all of you. Can't be a painfully adorable family without matching clothes.'
Meredeth stepped over, accepted the parcels. 'I'll take care of those, and thanks for the chat, Jay.'
'You've got my card, so anytime you need a research tip, you give me a shout.'
The writer nodded, then popped the locks on the car; the baby carrier-car seat combo had already been fitted into the back passenger side of the car, and Lanie actually found herself pouting a little that she had to tuck Carey in there instead of keeping him in her arms. God she really was a new mother, wasn't she? Rounding the trunk, she sat in the middle seat-belt slot so she could be as close to him as possible. Dave, being the shutterbug he was, had the still camera out and was taking pictures of Carey's first car ride.
'Little man's first big trip, isn't it? You'll get to learn all the neighbourhoods of Manhattan, well the important ones. Mommy and Daddy both work in Midtown, and so do Auntie Katie and Uncle Javi and Uncle Kevin, and Auntie Jenny. And Auntie Lili and Uncle Cam, and Mommy and Daddy and now you live in the West village, and Uncle Javi and Auntie Merry live in Chelsea. They have a very pretty house, and that's where you'll get to meet your first puppy, Arturo.'
'All set back there?'
Lanie glanced up, so involved with her son that she didn't even notice the others had gotten into the car, and nodded. 'We're good to go, aren't we my love?'
Meredeth smiled, eased away from the curb. She'd at first thought having her grandmother's second-hand car in Manhattan when public transportation was so much easier would be a gigantic pain in the ass, but since she'd taken possession of it, she'd discovered it had come in quite handy. They turned south on Seventh towards the West Village, some kind of soft jazz on the speakers underlining Lanie's chatter to her boy.
Dave turned around, camera in hand as he watched his girl with his boy. So ridiculous, he thought, to be so in love with someone so quickly and yet he knew the moment he'd seen Harvey hold him up, still attached with the umbilical cord to Lanie that he'd take a bullet for him in a heartbeat.
'So, there is a little surprise waiting for you at the apartment,' Meredeth casually commented, 'and no, it's not all of us waiting to yell surprise like at the shower. We figured you guys would want your nest time just the three of you.'
'Then what's the surprise?'
'Telling would defeat the purpose, wouldn't it?'
'Silly Daddy, isn't he?' Lanie said to Carey, tickling his tummy a little. 'Auntie Merry's a great secret keeper despite how noisy she can be.'
They made it to the apartment building in the West Village in good time, Lanie taking Carey inside in his carrier while Dave got the bags from the trunk. When they unlocked the door to the apartment, Lanie sighed as she felt the leftover hormones still floating around inside her; she didn't expect those little darlings to go away any time soon.
There was a poster board propped on the kitchen table that read 'Welcome Home Carey!' in metallic yellow and green, and was surrounded by a small forest of stuffed animals all holding a blanket or a bottle or a onsie. At first glance, Lanie could see a leopard, an elephant, a lion and an ibis. On the couch, Oscar was reading something on his laptop, speaking into his cellphone.
'He'll still need three weeks of PT exercises but I see no medical reason why he can't start tomorrow against San Jose.' He glanced up, saw the new family was home. 'I have to go, my kids and my grandbaby are here. Right. Bye.'
Oscar stood up to help Dave with the bags. 'Welcome home, my darlings, let's have a look at the big boy.'
'The doctor weigh him before we left, and he said Carey's already gained two ounces,' Lanie said, making room amongst the stuffed zoo on the kitchen table.
'Carey, excellent short-form. Just like Mister Price up in Montreal.'
Dave grinned in a very 'see, toldja' way behind Lanie's back as he got out his camera, took some snaps of the plush creatures with their presents. 'Who was responsible for this one? Let me guess, Castle and Meredeth, right?'
'No, it was that young Irish chap who was in the hospital room when I got there,' Oscar said, circling his hand absently. 'Connor?'
'Kevin. Kevin Ryan. The same detective this little guy's named after.'
'He's the one who took care of you in January?' Oscar asked.
'The very same. He's one of our best friends, and his wife is a nurse, she was in the delivery room helping us bring him into the world.' Lanie sat down at the kitchen table, her fingertips on the edge . 'Is there anything to eat here? We haven't been home in the last three and a half days, everything's probably turned.'
'Nope, your friend looked after that too. There was a tiny Latina girl and the tall brunette, and the gent with the cane here too, the four of them and myself came here this morning with fresh groceries, and the brunette said she'd cooked for you.'
'Lili and Meredeth and Cam,' Dave said, going to the fridge; he nearly wept when he saw Meredeth's colour-coded lids and careful printing on the labeling tape lining the shelves. 'We will need bigger belts, guarenteed. How do we feel about tomato ravioli soup and a turkey club?'
'Sounds fantastic.' Lanie's stomach gurgled, and she patted it, the soft squishy flesh there feeling funny after she'd gotten so used to the solid bump of her baby there.
Oscar began picking up the stuffed toys, moving them to the couch to make room for them to have a bite to eat. 'Meredeth, she is a chef?'
'A hobby chef, yes. She writes for a living, the Lady Hawk books.'
'Yes, yes, I thought she looked familiar. And the fellow with the cane, what's his story? He seems awfully young to need one.'
'Cam's a veteran, Daddy. He took some shrapnel in his knee during his third tour two years ago, and he's been through physio therapy but because of his surgery to make sure he could still walk, he's got a permanent limp,' Lanie explained. 'His wife is Lili, the tiny Hispanic girl and the brunette is their sister-in-law, she's married to Lili's brother Javier.'
'Right, right. I met them all that night, but all I really remember was seeing you with your boy.'
'Can't blame you.' Dave stirred the soup as it heated on the stove. 'We haven't been able to take our eyes off of him.'
Carey gave a little gurgle and sigh and Lanie was instantly looking at him, saw him blinking. 'I think Kate was right, I think he is going to have green eyes,' she started, then nodded when she saw him mewl softly and making the 'fish face' as Honey-Milk had called it. 'Looks like it's lunchtime for him too.'
She picked Carey up, cuddling him on her shoulder as she went into the nursery and closed the door behind her. There was a cozy rocking chair by the window and after picking up the nursing pillow, she sat down, adjusting him against her breast. It only took a few seconds this time, as she gently rocking them back and forth. As Carey continued to eat, Lanie looked around at the room. It hadn't changed since they'd put the finishing touches on it, and yet everything was different now. It was no longer a baby project room - it was their son's nursery, where he would rest and grow, and eat, she thought, glancing down at him. He'd gotten so into it, he'd closed his eyes and was kneading her skin with his little fingers, like her breast was a super-Freezie and he was down to the last third.
'Drink up, baby,' she whispered. 'We want you to be big and strong.'
When he'd finished, Lanie adjusted her nursing bra back into place, then put him on her shoulder to pat his little back. She could feel his exhaling against her neck, froze when she felt him hitching a little. Then it happened - a squeaky barking sound accompanied with a full body jerk.
'Oh, he's a sneezy boy isn't he,' Lanie laughed, starting to rock him again as Carey moved and cuddled against her. 'Milk was a little spicy today, huh?'
She sighed, settled and content as she stroked Carey's back, the heard the creak of the door opening. She looked up, saw Dave there.
'Soup's ready when you are. How's our little man?'
'Full tummy, so he'll be ready for a nap soon, I think. He sneezed.'
'Yeah, and freaked himself out too when he did.' Lanie heard the hearty gurgle, saw him spit a little onto the blanket on her shoulder. 'I've been spit up on by my son. I'm really a mom, aren't I?'
Dave crossed to her, kissed her forehead; as he did, the mid-day sun washed over the new family, creating a single silhouette in the nursery.